New shock boost for Sepang pacesetter Alvaro Bautista

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A new Showa rear shock helped Alvaro Bautista claim a surprise spot at the top of the opening day timesheets at the second Sepang MotoGP test in Malaysia today.

The Gresini Honda rider led an unlikely leading foursome with a best time of 2.00.848 set in the final stages of the day putting him just 0.052s clear of winter testing sensation Aleix Espargaro.

With track conditions far from ideal after a Ferrari track day event last weekend had a big impact on grip levels, Bautista finished ahead of Espargaro, reigning Moto2 world champion Pol Espargaro and factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso.

First of the big names was a demoralised Jorge Lorenzo in fifth, who continues to struggle severely to adapt to new 2014-spec Bridgestone tyres.

Bautista put his impressive display down to a brand new shock delivered by Showa after he struggled for rear grip during the first Sepang showdown earlier this month.

The former 125GP world champion told MCN: “We tried a brand new rear shock today because at the first test we struggled a lot with the rear. The new spec was completely different and suddenly the bike started working much better and very good. I am quite happy because it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Bautista said the biggest step forward with the new shock was his ability to lap faster on fresh rubber, which had been a big weakness during Sepang 1.

He added: “The biggest problem at the last test was the rear shock because I didn’t have very good grip and whenever we put in a new tyre I couldn’t take advantage of the potential of that tyre. We worked a lot with the new shock on used tyres and my feeling was really good, but when we put in a new tyre I could feel the difference immediately. I can improve my lap time by a big difference on the new tyre and at the first test this was not possible. At the last test I could only improve by a couple of tenths but today I was able to improve by more than 0.5s and that will be crucial for qualifying.”

For eight pages of coverage from Sepang 2, see the March 5 issue of MCN.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt